|The new Air Wrench. One lugnut like Formula-1. I don't think I like it.|
|Next Gen car tested at Charlotte road course on Nov 16, 2020. Slick looking car.|
|Denny Hamlin has won the Daytona 500 three times. |
|Chase Elliott is 8/1 to win title again in 2021.|
The last six NASCAR Cup Series Champions have won the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
This year, the season finale is Sunday at Phoenix Raceway and it’s appropriately named the Season Finale 500. To find the winner, we no longer look at what drivers did on 1.5-mile tracks during the season as we’ve done since 2004 with Homestead.
The best way now for Phoenix is to look at the performance of the cars in the 12 races using the race package featuring engines that produce 750 horsepower, which includes the non-points All-Star Race at Bristol.
Here’s a list of the top candidates to win this week, along with a few long shots, with odds to win Sunday’s race courtesy of William Hill sportsbooks:
In 30 Phoenix starts he has an 11th-place average finish with two wins, 13 top-fives, and 821 laps led. Last season when Phoenix was the turn race before the Championship 4 at Homestead, he had to win to transfer, and he did. He won the first stage, finished second in the second stage, and led 143 laps on his way to probably the biggest win of his career. The biggest race of his career is this week looking for his first title. You ready, Denny?
“I think we can win any given week for sure,” Hamlin said.” The short tracks haven’t been great for us all year, but you just never know. Last year, we went there and nearly lapped the field, so who knows how it’s going to turn out. One race, winner take all, you never know.”
Hamlin has received lots of criticism for not winning a title yet, so you can believe he has an entire list of doubters and haters he wants to shut up and he can do that with a win.
If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you know that I like to group certain tracks for handicapping purposes. If a driver does well on one, they’ll likely do well on the others.
Phoenix’s flat 1-mile layout falls into a category with New Hampshire’s flat 1-mile layout, and Richmond’s ¾-mile flat layout.
All three are configured differently but because of the distance and banking similarities, the set-up requirements are virtually the same or at least for those who do well.
Keselowski won three races this season using the 750 horsepower package being used this week and he was dominant in all three leading the most laps. Two of those were at New Hampshire where he led 184 laps and Richmond where he led 192 laps.
He’s never won at Phoenix but has his best chance ever Sunday which would also give him the 2020 Cup Championship.
He had one of the best cars in the March race, started from pole, led a race-high 93 laps, and then hit the wall late in the race and his car didn’t handle the same. He’s had a few instances like that at Phoenix.
But the reason to bet him this week is he has arguably had the best runs using the 750 hp package which includes four wins and won the last two using it.
“I’m still kind of wrapping my head around everything, I feel like,” Elliott said earlier this week. “I’ve never been in this position before, so I think myself, much like a lot of people around me are kind of learning this together. For me, I’m just taking it a day at a time and just enjoying the moment. I’ve been saying that a lot lately, and I think it’s really important to do that. I’ve heard my dad say that over the years that he wished he enjoyed certain moments more and didn’t just run through them. So I’m just trying to enjoy it.”
He won the March race at Phoenix, but probably had the fourth-best car of the day, although he did lead 60 laps. Last fall he led 93 laps before finishing ninth. He also won at Phoenix in 2016. He’s part of Team Penske which has produced some of the fastest cars using the 750 hp package. He’s had top-fives in the last two races using it.
He leads the series with nine wins in 2020 and he’s not in the Championship 4, so you know what he wants to do? Go out and win his 10th race this week, which would also be his 10th career win at Phoenix, a track record. He also holds the track record with 18 top-fives and 1,662 laps led.
He’s been sixth or better in four of his last six Phoenix starts with a career-best of runner-up in the spring of 2019. It’s been a down year for him, but the good news is that he’s driving the race package that was used to win his only race at Martinsville in July.